Not So Positive (on) Parenting

I’m struggling to find my way back to this space. Where I used to cherish the opportunity to process hard experiences and confusing feelings in a post; now I dread it. If I have a little time at the end of the evening, I briefly consider writing, but almost immediately put it aside to make time for reading a book or watching mindless TV. I just don’t want to expend the mental and emotional energy needed to wade through the muck.

Right now there is a lot of muck. I have to wade through it, but I haven’t been all the interested in waxing philosophical about what wading through it is really about.

I’m not sure if this is the beginning of the slow and drawn out death of my blog. While a huge part of me considers the possibility with teenager-like apathy, there is a small voice buried deep beneath the growing layers of lassitude that begs me to fight this stubborn insouciance. Just write something, anything, and see how it feels.

So in proper me fashion, I’m going to write one of the harder posts, on a topic I’ve been avoiding for a looooooooong time. If writing here can help me process this, maybe there really is hope for my blog.

It’s no big proclamation, at least not in this space, for me to say I feel a lot of ambivalence toward parenting. I see myself as someone who has always been a little more outspoken than most in declaring the negative aspects of raising children in this day and age. I’ve always told myself that I write (and talk) about the hard parts of parenting because I think we need to change the dialogue around parenting in general, but motherhood more specifically, because it can be detrimental to new (and even more experiences) mothers. I believe our society puts motherhood on a pedestal that creates unattainable expectations and damaging standards against which women judge themselves and their experiences. I believe talking more openly and honestly about what parenting is really like will help us all feel less isolated and more successful.

Yes, that is what I’ve been telling myself for the past almost five years. Except lately I’ve been wondering if I’m so outspoken about the underbelly of parenting, because I don’t actually like parenting that much.

Wow, it’s amazing how hard it was just to write that sentence. It’s incredible the deep fear I have of being judged and rejected for admitting that I’m exploring the possibility that I don’t enjoy parenting, at least at this stage.

Because, let’s face it, it is truly something WE DO NOT vocalize in our society. To say you don’t like parenting is tantamount to declaring you don’t like your kids (even though they are completely different things). I remember how people crucified Ayelet Waldman for saying she loved her husband more than her children, and loving someone more than someone else still leaves a lot of room to love that someone else. What happens if someone says they not only don’t love parenting, but they don’t even really like it?

But let me back up a a bit.

It all started earlier this year when I began seeking out new women to build friendships with. For the first time in a long time I was introducing myself to other women who didn’t know me at all, intentionally selecting what I wanted to share about myself and carefully tailoring how I presented it. Interestingly, none of the women I’ve met this year have children, and even more interestingly, I’ve been really excited about that. Women without children are so much easier to meet up with, and they never want to talk about kids and all the mundane drudgery required in having them. Turns out I have very little trouble avoiding the topic of my own children, and I’ve really enjoyed talking to other women about the myriad other subjects women talk about before motherhood hijacks their lives and their identities.

Of course the subject of me having children usually comes up, and I am obligated to provide a quick summary of my family and my experience parenting. I keep this part short and sweet, assuming that a person without kids doesn’t want to hear much about mine.

{It’s been interesting to see how I choose (usually in the moment) to present our family building experience. I hope to write more on this later, as I’ve thought about it a lot.}

There are times, though, when someone else broaches the subject and I’m asked to talk more about my kids or motherhood or parenting in general. It is in these conversations that I’m struck by what comes out of my mouth. Sometimes I walk away wondering if my new friends think I hate being a mother. The truth is that most of the time, I can’t think of very many nice things to say about the day to day realities of raising kids.

A lot of the time I find myself envying my new friends’ childfree lifestyles.

Now if this isn’t sacrilege to declare in public, it sure as hell is in this community. How can I talk about how I don’t really like parenting right now to a bunch of women who fought long, hard, tragic, traumatizing battles to be doing (or in the hopes of doing) that which I clearly don’t appreciate myself? I can’t think of a way to seem more ungrateful for the amazing children in my life.

Oh. My. Gawd. The. Guilt.

And here is the thing (and yes, I feel like I have to say this because I’m hyperventilating right now): I love my kids. I love being their mother. They are incredible beings and I am humbled by the massive responsibility I’ve been entrusted with. I feel incredibly fortunate to bear witness to their journey through life and I hope I can serve as a decent mentor and guide, now and always.

I am very grateful for my children, and I would sacrifice anything to keep them safe, but the day to day task of raising them in not something I enjoy. In fact, right now, it’s downright unpleasant.

And because this ended up being a 2000+ word post, I’m going to stop until tomorrow. If you feel compelled to comment today, please be gentle.

To be continued…

37 Comments

  1. I once told my sister that if the government wants to torture prisoners of war, they should put then in a room with a bunch of toddlers. They could make them fold laundry all day while the toddlers threw it on the floor. They could make then walk around while the toddlers walked half a pace in front of then so they constantly felt like they were going to trip, somehow miraculously shadowing their every move from in front. My (childless) sister thought this was hilarious, but it really is enough to make you crazy. So I get what you are saying. Although I do hope you end up liking another stage of parenting better. I think some people are more cut out for one stage than another (my mom was good at the toddler/elementary years; my dad is good at being a parent to adult kids).

    1. Oh my gosh, that whole prisoners of war things had me rolling. It’s so, so true! I have heard people say that they believe some people are better at parenting during certain ages and I hope that is true. I definitely think I’ll hit my stride more when my kids are in school because, well, school is what I do. I really hope that is the case.

      It’s interesting that you say your dad is good at being a parent to adult kids. I never thought of that before, as that also being a stage of parenthood. I bet I’ll be good at that stage too, because I love to come in and help, but I also love to get out when the help is over. 😉

  2. I am really not looking forward to Izzy’s toddler years and tell everyone that I know about it. I think that it is going to be extremely difficult to deal with a nonsensical tantruming child in a calm manner. There is such pressure to teach them everything- how to deal with feelings, how to deal with others, etc. and really the teaching never stops. Hopefully the fact that you are not enjoying parenting right now is just a phase….

    1. You’re so right that the teaching never stops. And there are so many boundaries you have to hold and other parents might not be holding the same ones you are (just like you’re not holding the same ones they are) and it can be hard to hold some boundaries when your kids see other kids getting to cross them. It’s just CONSTANT, the setting boundaries, holding boundaries, dealing with the tantrums when they are upset about the boundaries. Ugh. It’s just every, single MINUTE. I think I’m just astounded that they need this much guidance. I mean, didn’t kids used to basically just raise themselves? Or be raised by not very much older siblings?! How did that work?!

  3. I understand what you’re saying. Parenting children under 6 or 7 is miserable work for so many reasons. How long you fought and how hard you fought to have them doesn’t negate the very real struggles of parenting, I don’t think the two are related at all. My kids are 9, 4, and 3 and I am just starting to really enjoy them because they are all at least a little bit independent, leaving me a little time to just enjoy things. You aren’t ungrateful, you’re just in the throws of toddlerhood. Take heart, it is finite. (And I know that isn’t really helpful, but there is light at the end of the tunnel).

    1. I think that is really what I need right now, them to be just a little bit independent. I think my daughter was getting there but now that my son is here she just wants to be with me because she sees him getting to be with me, so she is more needy than I think she would be if her brother weren’t around. There has been A LOT of regression and I’m hoping she gets over that a bit as her brother gets older. As for the little one, he needs me constantly. I wrote more about that in tomorrow’s post. It’s just NEVER ENDING. And it’s so hard.

  4. We are in San Diego on a family vacation. It turned into a nightmare trip and I’m just so ready to get home. Parenting is soo hard sometimes. It often feels like a battle, a fight nonstop. I am almost always trying to avoid a meltdown, get the boys to eat, and play referee. It gets exhausting! I mostly enjoy the day to day parenting, but I hear you. This is hard shit.

    1. Oh no! I hate it when a fun vacation becomes a total nightmare trip. I remember our trip to Disneyland, it was fun but so hard. We can’t afford to go on vacations really, but I’m not even sad about that at this point because I know it would’t be worth it. They won’t remember it and I’ll end up more tired and stressed than I would have been if we didn’t go. It’s just so hard at this age. And maybe what I’m not realizing is the trips I remember with my family, the trips that make me want to take trips with my own kids, happened when I was a lot older. I don’t remember much before I was five, so how could I remember a trip? I have to fight with myself to stay realistic about what it will actually be like taking my kids somewhere. It’s NEVER as fun as I think it will be.

      1. Yep yep yep. Hottie wants to take the boys to Seattle this summer and I said no way. They’ll never remember it and we’ll all be stressed. I’m game for a weekend away and… The road trip we HAVE TO TAKE with my family, but beyond that, there’s no point.

        Whenever we limp through a weekend away with the kids, I remind hottie that, “we didn’t do this because it would be fun. We did it so we can say we did.”. At some point, all of the travel struggles will pay off and our kids will travel well. They better anyway, goddammit!

        1. Yeah. We aren’t taking our kids anywhere for a loooooooong time. And I’m okay with that. I really have no desire to take them anywhere for a while. I do think one-on-one trips can be okay, and I enjoy visiting friends in San Diego and going to St. Louis to visit my family (where they get to play with my cousins’ kids) but I’m not taking them anywhere else until they are much older.

  5. Parenting is the best ever and THE WORST EVER. It’s 95% torture, what with the endless laundry, messes, constant bickering and defiance, hitting, biting, spitting, bargaining, pleading, yelling, and failing. Always with the failing. But that other 5%? When they’re sweet, loving, darling little wonders? It somehow makes up for all the rest.

  6. This is such a brave post and thank you for writing it. The stage you are in is so so difficult, with SO much work and minimal tangible rewards. Couple that with your extremely demanding work schedule and lack of free time, and it’s not surprising that you don’t particularly like parenting. I’m hoping things will get better as your kids get older and more independent. You are a great mom and there is no question you love and adore those children.

    1. I definitely think my particular job does not help me like parenting, because I’m basically parenting other people’s kids all day, and then I have to do it more with my kids. I’m definitely a better mom, and enjoy parenting better, when I’m no summer break. Of course my daughter has been in daycare for the past two summers. She won’t be this summer and I’m definitely freaking out.

  7. Not to be depressing but ‘parenting’ remains tough even when the ‘children’ are in their 40s. Parenting is totally different from loving your children and wanting your children and trying very hard to Have your children. It is absolutely fact that loving your children does not mean you love parenting. In fact I almost wonder if ADORING MY CHILDREN does not make parenting them even harder. I wonder if it because I TOTALLY ADORE and WONDER AT THEIR PERFECTION and completely IN AWE of them … that I feel like a miserable failure as a parent. So if you find ‘parenting’ F*** Awful … well, I think that may be EXTREMELY NORMAL. Perhaps in part because we love our children so much and so want to ‘parent perfectly’ or at least not be abysmal at parenting. (Note: My children really really really have become totally amazingly wonderful adults … despite my failure as a parent … and they were never removed to ‘care’ despite my complete inept humanity as a parent.)
    Bless you for honesty. You normalize reality.

    1. Is parenting when your kids are in their 40’s still hard?! AHHHHHHH!!!! I thought it was going to get better. I guess I should have known…

      It’s good to know I’m probably not irrevocably f***ing them up. I hope that is the case.

  8. My kids are in the toddler stage but I can see that parenting can be hard forever. It may not be day-to-day when they’re an adult but it seems like you never stop worrying about them.

    I think what makes parenting so hard is that these little miracles all have their own personalities and desires and sometimes they are not quite the perfect “match” you expected for your family.

    1. “I think what makes parenting so hard is that these little miracles all have their own personalities and desires and sometimes they are not quite the perfect “match” you expected for your family.” THIS! A thousand times this!

      My daughter and I are similar in so many ways it took me a long time to see the really important ways we are different from each other. Identifying our contrasting needs REALLY helped me understand why our relationship is so fraught on so many levels.

      I remember reading an article by a parent once about accepting the kids we have by letting go of the kids we expected. My children are, in most ways, what I expected, and I think that has made it harder to recognize the ways they are not like I expected and to let go of those expectations so I can better parent them. It’s taken me a while to get there but I am now, and it’s getting easier.

  9. I’ve followed your blog for a long time but I tend to lurk. Were I not two hours away I could easily BE one of these new childfree friends of yours (really, I think we’d hit it off!) I think you were incredibly brave to put this out there

    1. I wish you weren’t two hours away! Maybe we could still get together sometime? Two hours isn’t that much…

  10. Oh yeah, its hard. And we’ve discussed this before, but the mismatch of your personality and your child’s personality can (I really think) make parenting that child even harder. And while I agree that all stages are hard and the worry never ends, I will admit that some things get easier (while others get harder) with time. The CONSTANT NEED does subside a tad over the years and you are RIGHT in the thick of the needy years X 2. When my kids are in “phases” that come and go for no apparent reason, I DREAD dinner/bedtime and dread even more the weekends. And then they are in a pleasant phase, and I can’t even remember what that felt like, and feel guilty for even feeling that way about these little angels…and then the PHASE comes back…
    I relate to your desire to spend time with non-mothers and discuss non-child stuff (and yes, its just EASIER to make plans and actually enforce said plans with non-parents). I felt that really acutely a few years back. Now I’d settle for friends of any kind.

    1. Oh the PHASES. It’s taken me a long time to accept that they are never going to stop coming. Never. They will look different and need to be handled different, but they will keep coming. Thank god we get a little respite in between the really bad months because man, those months suck.

      I would also settle for any kind of friend, but I find it hard to cultivate friendships with other moms because it’s just hard to make the schedules match up. I’m trying to get together more with a woman who works from my school and has a son my daughter’s age but she always wants to stay home and if we do get together her husband always comes, and that’s just different than hanging out with a woman alone (especially since my husband NEVER comes. NEVER.) I wish you could dedicate some time to finding more friends. I’ll write a post soon about what I’ve been doing to cultivate friendships. It’s definitely a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it.

  11. I feel this way OFTEN. Last night as I was trying to fall asleep I just goggled over the constancy of the low-level anxiety that accompanies parenting for me. It’s just always, always there and never goes away. I find parenting totally exhausting. I love my kids so much it breaks my heart and at the same time constantly wonder what the hell I did to myself and my life by having them. I am both insanely grateful for having them, and at the same time flattened by the responsibility, built, and angst that I feel all. the. time.

    1. “I love my kids so much it breaks my heart and at the same time constantly wonder what the hell I did to myself and my life by having them. I am both insanely grateful for having them, and at the same time flattened by the responsibility, built, and angst that I feel all. the. time.” OMG. THIS.

      Thank you for writing this. Thank you.

  12. I love my son more than I thought I could ever love another human being. (And that’s not hyperbole, I promise you that.) But the day to day of parenting him, being his mother… it’s awful, and hard, and I dislike it a lot more than I like it.

    I think it’s okay not to like parenting, or even to not like your kids. Those are just feelings, which exist right alongside the love-you-so-much feelings. And, for me at least, the longing for another baby, which STILL exists, despite me not liking parenting my son most of the time.

    So yeah, you’re not alone.

    xoxo

    1. “I think it’s okay not to like parenting, or even to not like your kids. Those are just feelings, which exist right alongside the love-you-so-much feelings.” This is really important to remember. Thank you for adding this to the conversation. I have to keep that in mind more.

  13. Thank you, thank you. For me the worst was early newbornhood so even when it’s tough it still feels better than then… They’re only 2 and 4 so I don’t want to jinx myself. But I totally get it and it needs to be said. I remember reading blogs of some post-infertiles about glorious babyhood and then when I got to experience it I felt horribly guilty etc. for not really enjoying it.

    1. I liked the first year, but REALLY STRUGGLED through toddlerhood with my daughter. I think I have some PTSD about it because as my son begins the stage himself I’m feeling A LOT of feelings. I know he’s a different kid and it will be different, but it will also be TWO and THREE and I just REALLY don’t want to do those again.

  14. First off, it’s interesting to me to that you’re struggling with this space and writing lately when just a year or two ago you couldn’t fathom why people would quit writing and felt they owed it to their readers to not just drift away. Not criticizing – just saying I find it interesting that you (and me!) are just now hitting that spot where it’s harder and harder to write, when fairly recently neither of us felt like that.

    At any rate, people can dream of being a mother without necessarily loving being pregnant (me!) or parenting small children (you!). There is SO much more to being a mother than those small parts though… kids grow up and change, parenting changes, kids become adults and you have different adult relationships with them… you’ll hit your stride and get into your groove of where you enjoy your children at some point, I truly believe that. Parenting is freakin’ hard.

    As for enjoying getting together with non-parent friends, i SO hear you on this. My BFF is currently 7 months pregnant, and as excited as I am for her, I’m also already mourning having someone to hang out with you did NOT want to talk about kids and baby stuff all the time. It’s just nice to talk about other stuff, you know? I don’t think it’s weird that you feel like that at all!

    1. It’s true, there was a time when I couldn’t imagine anyone not finding the time to write, or at least wanting to. I really hope it comes back to me. I think a few things are hard about accommodating writing this year, mostly my crazy 5am wake up schedule and also my daughter’s super late bedtime (not matter what I do to pull it up, she’s never asleep before 10pm). So yeah, that is definitely changing the way I feel about finding time for writing. I am surprised it’s been this many weeks without me wanting to write. I hope it doesn’t go on forever. (I also think the way I see myself, as a writer or aspiring writer has changed, and that makes writing here feel different too.)

      Having said that, I never said that people owe it to their readers to keep writing, or not to drift away. My thing is (and I continue to stand by this, even though people have crucified me for saying it) I DO think writers owe their readers a heads up on what’s happening, especially if it becomes clear they aren’t writing as much or are not coming back. I have always tried to be very clear about when I’m going to take a little break, or have found myself taking a break, even if I don’t know how long that break will be. And that is all I think bloggers owe their readers, just to be in the loop about what is happening, even if she isn’t sure what is happening herself. But I certainly don’t think bloggers owe their readers posts – we all gotta do what works for us. I hope I never implied that in any of my posts.

      As for non-mom friends, it IS really nice to talk about other things. SO, so nice. I really need to do it more often. 😉 (And I totally get you mourning the loss of your best friend being that for you. That would be hard. Maybe you can keep that up with her since it’s how you were friends for so long. You probably have more chance of talking about other stuff with her than with someone you met “as a mother.”

      1. That’s a good point that we might have a better chance of continuing non-Mom talks and interests together since that’s how we met. Hm..

  15. I’ll join you and admit that parenting is a huge pain in my ass. I don’t like the constant attention two kids under 4 need, or that discipline takes so much time and effort. Not to mention the repetition needed before a little kid “gets it”. It’s mind numbing and monotonous and frustrating.

    1. Oh my gawd the repetition! Mind numbing is EXACTLY the right word. My daughter is constantly saying my name and even thought I respond immediately she still repeats it nine times.
      Mom. Yes. Mom. Yes. Mom. Yes, honey. Mom. Yes, what? Mom. Yes, I’m listening. Mom. Honey, what. Mom. WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR THE LOVE OF GAWD I’M LISTENING.

      x 1,000.

  16. AAAAAAAAH parenting is so hard and frustrating and wonderful and fantastic and LOUD. Little Monster is a feisty 2 year old and shouts constantly when she talks, which is all the time. I had no real concept that parenting was this LOUD. I adore my girls and I am also thankful that I get to leave every morning and have a time without them (and when I get to come home, I adore that for the first 30 seconds and then maybe for a few minutes after that before bedtime). Thanks for your honesty.

    I find that while the Kid is very challenging and frustrating and UGH these days, now that she is 7 she is much more fun to be around and her good periods are longer than before. Whoa she is already 7. It amazes me how far we’ve come, and how challenging everything will always be, and yet how sometimes wonderful.

    I also tend not to talk about the girls. My last job it was maybe a few months before my coworkers knew the kid existed at all. I tend to not want to be pigeonholed into parent talk because I like being more than just that.

    1. Oh my gawd my daughter is SOOOOOO loud. I’m loud too and I was told to be quiet my whole life (still am actually), so a little piece of my heart breaks every time I have to remind my daughter to talk more quietly because I remember than really hurting as a kid. I don’t know how else to help her be quiet though, just lowering my own voice does nothing to remind her to lower her own… ugh. It’s humbling to struggle so much parenting a daughter who is in so many ways a mini-me.

  17. I envy you for having a bunch of non-parent friends. I have one, and I need MORE! I love that ONE friend so much for the conversations she brings to my life!

    I love my kids, but I do not love probably 60% of the time I spend with them during the day. And 1-2 hours of the 40% of the time I do like… is nap time! It’s just damn hard right now. Bryson is like monito – INTO EVERYTHING. He is not safe when he’s alone, and that is exhausting.

    1. I have worked really hard to make some new friends and I have been really pleased by making non-mom friends. I didn’t even think much about the mom/non-mom friend dichotomy when I started my Find-New-Friends effort, but almost immediately I realized how much I loved making non-mom friends. It’s been awesome.

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